UNRWA building in Gaza
UNRWA building in GazaAbed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Canadian families who lost loved ones in the horrific Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7, 2023, together with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), on Thursday filed a Federal Court application for judicial review of the Government of Canada’s decision to resume funding for the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, UNRWA, contending that the decision to do so was patently unreasonable because it violates Canadian law.

Though there is no dispute that humanitarian aid is needed and must urgently reach the civilian population in Gaza, the application lays out the arguments of why UNRWA cannot be the agency to fulfill this responsibility and should be disqualified from funding.

CIJA noted in a statement that Under Canadian Law, funding can only be advanced to organizations that respect Canadian values and international human rights standards. Additionally, given UNRWA’s well-documented links to Hamas, a terrorist organization under Canadian law, by resuming Canadian funding to UNRWA, the government is in violation of its own anti-terrorism legislation, said CIJA.

Canada was one of 16 countries which in January paused payments to UNRWA, soon after Israel said that 12 UNRWA staff had taken part in Hamas’ October 7 attack.

However,Canada last month announced it will resume funding to UNRWA, saying the UN agency "plays a vital role in Gaza."

Alongside CIJA, the applicants of the lawsuit are: Dikla Mizrachi, mother of Ben Mizrachi; Iris Liniado, daughter of Judih Weinstein Haggai; Jacqui Vital, mother of Adi Vital-Kaploun; and Raquel Ohnona, mother of Alexandre Look, Canadians who lost family members to Hamas violence since October 7.

The legal challenge is led by well-known Ottawa-based human rights lawyer Lawrence Greenspon and co-counsel Jillian Siskind, members of CIJA’s Legal Task Force. In compliance with Federal Court rules, this application had to be submitted within 30 days of the Government’s decision.

Dikla Mizrachi, Iris Liniado, Jacqui Vital, and Raquel Ohnona said in a joint statement, “Our families are appalled and sickened by the decision of the Canadian government to reinstate funding to UNRWA given its ties and support of the terrorism that took our loved ones’ lives.”

Lawrence Greenspon, Senior Partner, Greenspon Granger Hill, said, “The Canadian families who are bravely taking the Government of Canada to court over this decision are doing so because they understand firsthand the consequences of allowing UNRWA to benefit from Canadian support – whether the issue pertains to their staff’s direct participation in the October 7 attacks or their teachers indoctrinating Palestinian children to extremist hate by glorifying terrorism, praising Hamas, and advocating for the killing of Jews. These families have suffered, and are suffering, tremendously from the loss of loved ones killed by Hamas’ terrorism, which has been fueled by funds that were forwarded to UNRWA.”

“UNRWA’s ties to Hamas have long been known and ignored, allowing them to operate with impunity. However, in a post-October-7 world, to deny reality or to continue to remain silent in the face of these facts is complicity. Canada should never have restored funding; to do so was tantamount to giving them permission to continue as a proxy for Hamas,” he added.

Richard Marceau, Vice President, External Affairs and General Counsel at CIJA, said, “Canadian money given to UNRWA will only help Hamas continue attacking Jews and other Israelis. With this application now officially submitted, it would be inappropriate for the Government of Canada to continue to transfer Canadian tax dollars to UNRWA until such time as a judicial ruling on the application is made, especially when there are other credible and qualified organizations for this humanitarian aid, such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the World Food Program, and the United Nations Office for Project Services.”